By Samuel G. Dweh (freelance journalist 0886-618-906/0776-583-266; [email protected])
One of China’s representative “technical training” units—companies—in Liberia, under the China-Liberia Friendship, has absorbed dozens of young Liberians into its fold. Its name is China-Aided Liberia Bamboo & Rattan Weaving and Vegetable Planting Technical Assistance Project.
The company is housed in a square of connected white concrete buildings located in the “SKD Community,” named after former President Samuel Kanyon Doe, and less than twenty yards away from the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex fence.
One of the intakes is Rebecca Flomo, born in 1999. “I’m enjoying this work,” Rebecca said in an interview at her assigned area on the vegetable side of the compound on Monday, December 10, flashing a smile that revealed white teeth. Her assigned post contained eggplants, cucumbers, peppers, gourd, cowpeas, beans, and watermelons.
Rebecca sprayed water over some part of the farm, inspected some of the leaves, and turned to reply, “I came here in July this year to learn how to grow vegetables, after I dropped out of school and the sixth grade because my uncle, who was supporting me, died in June 2015.”
Rebecca also has children. “I have two children—a girl, five years old; and a boy, three years old,” she said.
An indigene from Lofa County, which is in the north-west of Liberia, the young mother said she lives alone with one of her two children in a room in the ELWA Community (near her learning center) and is self-supported.
“I want to learn this work so that I will make plenty of money from it, and no man will bluff me,” she said and left to continue with her task.
A partition of net separated Rebecca’s post from another vegetable portion under three young men—Daddyboy Karr, 20, of Grand Bassa County; Jerry Karmo, 26, of Margibi County; and Marcus Watson, 24, of Grand Cape Mount County.
“We are preparing this spot from seeds of other vegetables,” Daddyboy Karr, the leader of the “preparation team,” said as he, along with three others, prepared a mix of soil and fertilizer made from pig manure.
Daddyboy said he joined the Chinese company in 2015, few weeks after his arrival in Monrovia.
Each of the boys then explained by turns their reasons for hope, now that they have joined the project.
At the bamboo and rattan weaving section, a group of over thirty young men and ladies were busy with their respective tasks under a shed made from aluminum.
“My name is Amelia Johnson,” one of the female trainees, spraying a rattan chair, introduced herself. “I joined this Chinese training company in 2017. I’m enjoying this work, as you can see because this work is making me depend on myself and also it is preparing me for a brighter future.” After spraying, she beckoned to two other ladies to take the chair into the sun outside to dry.
Amelia, 32, said she is an indigene of River Gee County, and has five children. The supervisor of Amelia’s all-female group, Mr. Jiang Ding An, kept darting his attention from one working trainee to another, grinning and nodding his head in satisfaction of their performance.
One of the males introduced himself. “My name is Jackson Jallah, 28 years old, from Lofa County,” he said, and then turned to his task: blowing an electric fire from a metal tube and onto a rattan stick in order to bend it easily into the required shape. “I love this work and I’m learning it to get money to support my family.”
Jackson and his colleagues were being supervised by a Liberian teacher. “My name is Joe K. Williams, teaching bamboo or craft technology here. I am 48 years old, and from Maryland County,” he said.
Joe said he was in the first batch of Liberians that started with the company when it began at the Monrovia Vocational & Training Center (MVTC) on June 13, 2007.
Only two official resting days per week are for the trainees. “Saturday and Sunday,” trainee Nancy Peters, 21, a mother and an indigene of Grand Bassa County, said.
“At the moment, we have around eight hundred Liberian students, drawn from different counties,” said Mr. Yongdou, who has a Liberian traditional name, “Flomo.” He spoke through an interpreter, Pi Jun Yue, Assistant Project Director.
Mr. Yongdou said all funding for the company’s operations in Liberia is provided by the Central Government of China, and the Government of Liberia provides the “facilities”—office, electricity, water; and recruitment of students is done by the Ministry of Youth & Sports.
Clients for the bamboo/rattan products are furniture stores and resorts in Liberia, while the harvested vegetables go to supermarkets, Mr. Yongdou added.
Some of the counties in which the company has a presence are Lofa, Bomi, Bong, and Margibi.
“Liberia has a rich soil and rich bamboo reserve. We want to exploit these natural resources to train Liberians and provide them with employment opportunities on the China-Liberia Friendship,” Mr. Yongdou said.
The company—Bamboo & Rattan Weaving, and Vegetable Plant Project—was established in China in 1877, and opened operations in Liberia in 2007 during the presidency of Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the company’s Liberia Project Director Nie Yongdou explained on December 10. The company’s arrival in Liberia was as a result of a meeting between Presidents Ellen Sirleaf and Hu Jintao.